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Syria pardons 190 in attempt to head off international pressure

[JURIST] Syria [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday released 190 political prisoners, a move observers said was likely aimed at avoiding further confrontation with the US and UN. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC News profile] ordered the pardons, which included some members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and more than 50 Kurds imprisoned following riots in 2004. State news agency SANA said the action was part of a "comprehensive reform policy that aims at strengthening national cohesion." Government sources said that more internal reforms would be announced in the coming weeks. The actions by Syria, which has been under strict rule by the Ba'ath Party for decades, are viewed by many as an attempt to avoid further criticism and pressure from the UN, which earlier this week approved a resolution calling for Syrian cooperation [JURIST report] in the probe of the killing of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Syria has denied accusations [JURIST report] that it was involved in the bombing, despite being implicated by a UN investigation [JURIST report]. SANA has local coverage of the pardons. Reuters has more.

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